Are Codex Standards Too Rigid? Scientists Discuss in New Journal Article

June 14, 2011

Scientists question whether the threshold of standards for the Codex Alimentarius rely too heavily on the results of randomized controlled trials.

In a new article published in the June issue of Regulatory Toxicology and Pharmacology, several scientists question whether the threshold of standards for the Codex Alimentarius-the set of standards used by many international regulatory agencies to set food regulations-rely too heavily on the results of randomized controlled trials.

“The authors note that while Codex decisions are not binding, many governments routinely look to Codex when developing their national food regulations, including those applied to imported products. The authors acknowledge that there must be guidelines in place to protect consumers, establish fair trade practices, and ensure the integrity and quality of food products, but caution that too often regulatory agencies make policy decisions based solely on the results of randomized controlled trials,” stated the Council for Responsible Nutrition (CRN; Washington, DC). CRN says that the journal article reflects discussions held at a scientific conference held last year in Europe by the association’s international body, CRN-I.

Instead, the study’s authors recommend that the entire body of evidence, including observational data and the history of safe use, should play a larger role. The authors caution that “measuring the health benefits of a food is a dramatic challenge,” CRN states. “Foods are complex mixtures of nutrients and other bioactives, concurrently triggering many metabolic pathways.”

“The global regulatory system would benefit from an internationally recognized definition for history of safe use and agreed set of criteria to establish such a history,” the authors state.

The Codex Alimentarius Commission was created in 1963 by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the World Health Organization (WHO) as a concerted means of determining the safety of a growing number of food additives worldwide.

The article is titled “Scientific issues related to Codex Alimentarius goals: A review of principles, with examples.”

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